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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_0906

Films | Flexibles | Bags

Films | Flexibles | Bags Carbon-Neutral and Compostable Films - A Holistic Approach Sustainability has long been more than just a buzzword at the packaging film manufacturer alesco from Langerwehe, Germany. The business is committed to pursuing a holistic approach in this respect – conservation of resources, environmental protection, carbon neutrality, social responsibility and environmentally friendly innovation are all factors in this strategy. And because these issues are a way of life at the company, with its 210 employees, rather than just being a marketing slogan, the manufacturer of PE and biofilm packaging is happy to show its cards and be open about its approach in order to encourage others to follow this responsible path. “We developed a mission statement and a vision together with our staff in a number of joint workshops. These provide the basis for our environmental protection goals, our commitment to development that conserves resources and also our principle of carbon neutrality,” explains alesco Managing Director Philipp Depiereux with regard to the emergence of the revamped corporate philosophy with its focus on sustainability. Depiereux joined the new management team in 2004 and wanted to do more than merely produce marketing material focusing on new green products in the company. He wanted the company to really live and work in a green way on a daily basis. Not an easy task, as he admits in retrospect: persuading employees that have worked for decades with products manufactured from the finite resource that is oil to switch to green and sustainable strategies requires some well chosen words. However, the results of the drive for holistic sustainability in the business and in the products are now tangible throughout the company. For example, in the compostable film produced from sustainable raw materials. After three years of development work, the first biofilm from alesco was presented at the special show entitled “Bioplastics in Packaging” at interpack 2008 in Düsseldorf, and the fruit and vegetable bags proved to be a real hit at the trade fair. New areas of application, such as brochure packaging films for direct mailings and catalogues (e.g. bM 5/2009), compostable shopping bags, deep freeze films and the new Bioshrink, which was presented at drinktec (Munich, Germany), show that all the staff at alesco are now right behind this groundbreaking approach. But alesco has also put a great deal of thought into issues beyond the actual products themselves; for example, all biofilms are manufactured exclusively using green electricity produced from hydropower. And this commitment to green electricity will be extended by alesco to all of its production facilities in Langerwehe from 2010. But a holistic approach requires more than environmentally friendly products alone. alesco pursues its strategy in the production process as well 14 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/09] Vol. 4

Films | Flexibles | Bags – such as with the solvent recovery facility in the print shop. This system allows solvents, which are used in large volumes in the print shop, to be separated from the paint sludge, after which they are returned to the production system to be used again. The system led to a reduction in solvents of 70,000 litres (which therefore did not need to be newly purchased or expensively disposed of) in 2008 alone - the first year of operation – and the trend is on an upward trajectory. This means that important resources are conserved, roads are relieved of traffic due to reduced freight requirements and CO 2 emissions are also reduced as a direct consequence of this. A paint mixing facility was also installed in the print shop in 2008. This means that alesco now generally only has to order basic colours as it can mix special colours on-site, and it also means that waste is avoided as only the required amount of paint has to be mixed. If, for example, a customer in the consumer goods sector reduces its printing order at short notice, then already ordered paint does not have to be disposed of or put into long term storage. In its very first year, this measure led to a reduction in requirements equating to 40,000 litres of paint, which would otherwise have had to be transported away and disposed of. Lotta, our four year old cover girl says: „Oh, I loved the yummy carrots and my daddy made the plastic bags from bioplastics“. The company has also worked to achieve environmental optimisation with regard to the actual paints it uses. This is where solvent free, water-based paints were the solution. The research and development team worked for quite some time on these in order to achieve exactly the right composition and, as a result, it has been possible since 2009 to order print runs for compostable biofilms with this even more environmentally friendly paint. Printing can be carried out on up to eight printing units and the use of new paints does not necessarily lead to a compromise with regard to quality; part of a holistic approach also involves never losing sight of the needs of customers – who like nice, glossy printed images. Regranulation avoids unnecessary transportation At alesco, film regranulation of edge strips and rejects is handled internally: an in-house film regranulation system and a service provider based on-site results in short transportation distances for the reprocessing. This avoids the emissions that would otherwise have been produced during transportation to a regranulation plant some distance away. The entire stock of alesco regranulate material is then returned to the production process and not sold on to other film manufacturers, which would also result in transportation emissions. bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/09] Vol. 4 15

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